VENTURES AFRICA – Intra-Africa trade received a major financial boost as the International finance cooperation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank , pledged a $2m trade finance guarantee to Bank of Africa CÔte d'Ivoire (BOACI) to assist it in providing loans to small businesses in the country. Through its agreement with the BOACI, IFC will be able to provide small business owners in the country with the means to expand their businesses and engage in cross-border trade. Although CÔte d'Ivoire is one of the strongest and most diversified economies in West Africa , a statement released by the World Bank asserts that its smaller businesses still struggle to obtain the finance and support needed to expand or take on more employees. IFC's partnership with BOACI will therefore help smaller businesses in CÔte d'Ivoire's obtain financing and access training opportunities more easily. It will also help BOACI expand its small business loan portfolio by 20 percent by 2016. The $2 million trade finance facility, provided by IFC's Global Trade Finance Program, is part of the IFC's one-year advisory support program which is specifically designed to help BOACI improve its market knowledge of the SME sector, roll out an SME strategy, and improve its risk management framework. It will allow BOACI to establish working partnerships with a number of major international and regional confirming banks in the program, strengthening regional trade. IFC will also train about sixty BOACI staff on risk management and working with SMEs. "The trade finance guarantee from IFC will allow us to better support CÔte d'Ivoire's smaller importers and exporters. This partnership will help BOACI finance smaller businesses, grow its SME portfolio, and enhance its presence in international markets," Director General of the BOACI, Lala Moulaye posits. IFC Access to Finance Advisory Director, Peer Stein added that the "IFC's partnership with BOACI will help strengthen CÔte d'Ivoire's financial infrastructure and its small business sector, which plays a critical role in job creation and the health of the country's economy. IFC is committed to CÔte d'Ivoire's long-term growth and our investments in the country are expected to total $250 million this fiscal year." IFC is also investing in other areas of the West African nation's economy. These include power, tourism, and the agribusiness sectors. It recently co-arranged a $300 million facility with SociÉtÉ GÉnÉrale for Cote d’Ivoire’s only oil refinery. The loan will help guarantee a steady supply of critical energy imports in the country as well other West African countries.
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